Continuing the Legacy, but Looking Ahead to the Future
With a recent decision in the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions case, (Grutter v. Bollinger et. al.), declaring that the use of race as a factor in college admissions is unconstitutional, it seems appropriate that this edition of Black Issues In Higher Education features one of the leading producers of African American attorneys — Howard University School of Law and its dean Alice Gresham Bullock.
Howard’s law school truly has produced some of the nation’s finest and most respected legal minds. Charles Hamilton Houston was the first African American to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Later, it was a Howard University team, led by James M. Nabrit, George E.C. Hayes and Thurgood Marshall, that shepherded the fight in Brown v. Board of Education. The impact of Black attorneys on the U.S. legal system and thus the larger society over the years has been immeasurable.
So on March 27, 2001, when U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, in a written ruling, granted the plaintiff’s (in the Michigan case) request for an injunction and ordered the law school to stop using race, saying, “There is no question about the long and tragic history of race discrimination in this country,” but that the law school’s justification for using race to assemble a racially diverse student population is not a compelling state interest, well that’s just a bit hard to swallow.
It is painfully clear that this country still needs the Thurgood Marshalls of the world. And this is where law schools, and not just those affiliated with historically Black colleges and universities, come in — law schools that will train and produce lawyers of color who will stay connected to the minority community and be active in legal issues that affect minorities. This is exactly what Dean Bullock says she hopes Howard law graduates will do.
And perhaps joining this cause will be Florida A&M University’s College of Law, which is scheduled to open the fall of 2003 in Orlando. Black Issues correspondent Pearl Stewart spoke with newly appointed law school dean Percy R. Luney Jr. about his plans for the school and challenges facing Black law students and Black attorneys. Luney says the benefit of being able to start a new law program is being able to immediately establish a faculty with an emphasis on new growth areas in the legal profession such as globalization, technology and alternative dispute resolution.
Fisk University’s Race Relations Institute is continuing its long legacy of advancing the cause for racial justice. Recently, the institute held a summit on the impact of hip-hop on Black youth and another on reparations. Black Issues correspondent David Hefner spoke with the institute’s director Dr. Ray Winbush and program director Naomi Tutu about the institute’s work and what they hope to achieve by bringing together people from all walks of life such as scholars, policy-makers and rap artists to talk about current issues regarding race.
Also in this issue, Dr. James Jackson, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan, is trying to help us better understand just how complicated the world’s racial landscape really is through his research. And acknowledging the responsibilities often bestowed upon African American faculty members at predominantly White institutions, Jackson takes his job as a mentor to African American students very seriously. The impact of Jackson’s mentorship and guidance to students is evident through the remarks of one of his former students, Dr. Kendrick Brown of Macalester College. Brown says that one of his own overriding goals as a mentor for his Black students is to make sure they “stay connected, stay focused, and go on to make a contribution.”
We can’t ask for much more than that from today’s students.
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